Bush Administration (1989–1993), United States National Security Policy

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Bush Administration (19891993), United States National Security Policy


The administration of President George H. W. Bush confronted the most fundamental changes in the national security environment since the onset of the Cold War in the 1940s. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the disintegration of the Soviet empire removed the threat of communism that had long determined the direction of security efforts. To respond to this changed environment, Bush reduced the size of the military, shifted resources to the war on drugs, and pursued a new world order that included access to the oil-rich Persian Gulf states. This last goal made imperative the removal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait after it was invaded by Iraq, and resulted in the U.S. coalition-led Persian Gulf War with Iraq.

Bush, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, entered the White House after serving as vice president to Ronald Reagan. His approval of Reagan's security policies meant that he would largely continue them as president. The appointment of General Brent Scowcroft, National Security Adviser during the Ford administration, brought deep experience to the National Security Council (NSC) leadership. James Baker headed the State Department. The Department of State and the NSC worked harmoniously, with the jealous guarding of territory that had marked earlier administrations notably absent from this administration.

Reagan had issued a 1986 directive that characterized illegal drugs as a national security threat. The Bush administration expanded this initiative in 1989 with National Security Directive (NSD) 18. This two-part NSD designated the Department of Defense as the lead agency for the detection and monitoring of the aerial and maritime transit of illegal drugs into the country. While there are few specifics in the document, implementation of the directive almost certainly included increased use of intelligence resources, specifically more extensive use of U.S. reconnaissance satellites to locate coca-growing laboratories, communication intercepts to identify drug-smuggling planes entering the country, and other efforts to help monitor the communications of major drug cartel leaders. The second part of the NSD, named the "Andean Initiative", called for foreign aid for Columbia, Bolivia, and Peru with most of the assistance coming in the form of military equipment, such as helicopters, patrol boats and ammunition. The NSD also included such intelligence aid as radars, electronic sensors, secure communications equipment, and computers to store and retrieve information about drug traffickers.

Along with freeing resources for the war on drugs, the end of the Cold War also brought a renewed emphasis on arms control. The collapse of the Soviet system had left a considerable amount of military hardware in Europe and Bush saw arms control as a way of reducing the risks associated with this weaponry. The Conventional Forces Europe (CFE) agreement in 1990 covered the area from the Atlantic Ocean to the Urals. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces and the recently Soviet-aligned divisions of the Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO) were limited to 20,000 tanks; 30,000 armored combat vehicles; 20,000 artillery pieces; 2,000 helicopters; and 6,800 combat aircraft. These figures meant marginal cuts for NATO countries, but substantial cuts for WTO states. The result was parity in conventional military forces. CFE served as a major symbol of the end of the Cold War by speeding the demilitarization of Europe.

The dependency of the United States upon oil made access to the Persian Gulf a vital matter of national security. In NSD 26, Bush ordered federal agencies to expand political and economic ties with the Saddam Hussein regime of Iraq to ensure the continued friendliness of the dictator. This 1989 directive led to U.S. government loan guarantees that enabled Iraq to purchase vital foodstuffs on credit and divert hard currency reserves to finance a massive arms buildup. In 1990, Iraq used these arms to support an invasion of Kuwait. The resulting Persian Gulf War succeeded in freeing Kuwait from Iraq's grasp, but U.S. national security interests were damaged in the long term by allowing Hussein to remain in power.



Williams, Phil and Dilys M. Hill, eds. The Bush Presidency: Triumphs and Adversities. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994.


Digital National Security Archive. "Presidential Directives on National Security from Truman to Clinton." <http://nsarchive.chadwyck.com/pdessayx.htm> (April 25, 2003).


Cold War (19721989): The Collapse of the Soviet Union
National Security Strategy, United States
NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)
NSC (National Security Council)
Persian Gulf War

Bush Administration (2001–), United States National Security Policy

views updated May 29 2018

Bush Administration (2001), United States National Security Policy


George W. Bush, transformed the national security system of the United States to combat the threat of global terrorism. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Bush faced the likelihood of a repeat attack with the knowledge that terrorism could not be effectively addressed through traditional defensive strategies. Accordingly, the administration developed a homeland security

system and advanced a new doctrine that took into account the shadowy nature of terrorism. With this theory of pre-emption, Bush argued that the U.S. possessed the right and the moral responsibility to launch preventive strikes against states that posed a danger to national security even when that danger was not imminent. This doctrine led to the U.S. led attack upon Iraq, Operation Iraqi Freedom, in 2003.

Bush, a past governor of Texas, took office with little experience in foreign affairs. Nine months into his presidency, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, revealed shortcomings in national security. Simply, the major institutions of American national security were designed during the Cold War to meet the requirements of that era and failed to adequately protect the U.S. from the twenty-first century threat of global terrorism. To meet the challenge of retooling the security system, Bush relied upon Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense, Colin Powell as Secretary of State, and Condoleezza Rice as National Security Advisor.

In order to address terrorism, the Bush administration changed the way that security threats were identified and monitored. Designed with the aim of collecting information about the massive and immobile Soviet bloc, the intelligence community now had to follow a far more complex and elusive set of targets. The administration strengthened intelligence warning and analysis to provide integrated threat assessments for national and homeland security. Through such new creations as the Terrorist Threat Integration Center and the use of such older networks as Interpol, the U.S. disrupted terrorist networks, removed key leaders, and arrested more than 3,000 terrorists around the world. The new Department of Homeland Security intensified security at borders and ports of entry through measures that included posting more than 50,000 federal screeners in airports.

Afghanistan had provided a safe base for al-Qaeda terrorists to plot against the U.S. and this country became the first target of an anti-terrorism strike. The 2001 war in Afghanistan aimed to capture al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, remove a government that had permitted the growth of terrorism, and establish a democratic system. While the government quickly collapsed and the terrorist support network appears to be shattered, bin Laden, as of June, 2003, has not been captured. Significant numbers of U.S. military forces remain in the country to continue the search for terrorists and to serve as peacekeepers.

In the months after the Afghanistan attack, the Bush administration honed a doctrine of pre-emption that justified military aggression as the prevention of evildoing. Bush sought to persuade other nations to adopt this doctrine as part of an effort to protect the U.S. and its allies from attack by strengthening alliances to defeat global terrorism. The refusal of many other countries to cooperate for reasons that included nationalism and anger at perceived American arrogance has meant that some of these alliances have not formed. The 2003 war upon Iraq became an Anglo-American project to prevent Saddam Hussein from employing weapons of mass destruction and supporting terrorism.

Under Bush, the United States possesses the strongest military that the world has ever known. The global arms race is over, with no nation able to match the U.S. in naval, air, missile, or tank strength and only China offering a larger ground force. The ability of a large military to ensure national security, however, is not certain. The historic hostility of Arabs to Western intervention may complicate efforts to stabilize the Middle East and establish a model of democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan. With the perspective of history, therefore, the accomplishments of the Bush administration can be fully evaluated.



White House. "National Security." <http://www.whitehouse.gov/response/index.html> (April 27, 2003).


Domestic Intelligence
Enduring Freedom, Operation
Homeland Security, United States Department
Interpol (International Criminal Police Organization)
Iraq War: Prelude to War (The International Debate Over the Use and Effectiveness of Weapons Inspections.)
Iraqi Freedom, Operation (2003 War Against Iraq)
Terrorist Threat Integration Center
United States, Counter-terrorism Policy
World Trade Center, 2001 Terrorist Attack

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